Death of the Mockingbird
J.S.Danskin

They'd been in it from the beginning. Each one looking after the other, putting their blood, sweat and tears into every guitar riff, every lyric. The group was everything. The boys depended on the pure rush they experienced as they portrayed their insecurities and emotions through anger- based songs. Mockingbird was a mixture of anything from Nirvana to the Sex Pistols - at least where the angry/sarcastic properties were concerned - although rarely going as mellow as bands like Radiohead or R.E.M., Mockingbird had a pretty varied repertoire. The band was a three-piece, simply because that was as small a number they were going to be able to have without being accused of ripping off the White Stripes, which sent shivers up their spines.

The drum part was as complex - if not more than - as the Matt Bellamy-like guitar riffs and fast yet catchy bass lines the boys (somehow) conjured up. Yet despite Danny being a shit-hot drummer, the soul of Mockingbird was in the two best friends, Rob and Connor. This was simply because they both thrived on music and it's escape. They had no meaningful life outside Mockingbird, while Danny did. That was the difference.

While the kids their age had grown up to such evil mishaps as the Spice Girls and Steps, Rob and Connor had listened to The Clash, The Smiths and Nirvana. They had cried when Kurt Cobain committed suicide, and had fallen asleep to Patti Smith singing "Gloria". They delighted on rock history, for example when Axl Rose was put down by Kurt and Courtney at an awards ceremony, and when Sid Vicious knocked a guy out with his bass for booing at them. The two eighteen-year-olds doted on rock music and always had done, everyone who had met them knew that.

They were both fourth-year dropouts, so sure they would do so much better in the real world. Degrees or diplomas didn't matter; they were just scraps of paper binding people to certain jobs that ultimately made them unhappy. Music was definitely more Connor's life-support machine than Rob's - he had always just followed what his best friend had done. Rob was the sensible one. He had found himself a job in a florist's and paid more than ¾ of the rent he and Connor allegedly shared between them. Connor occasionally received a small sum of money from his reluctant parents every so often, unconditional love and all that.

In the band, Rob played the bass guitar with great enthusiasm, but he was always worried that perhaps one day he would no longer be able to live up to Connor's perfectionist standards. However, that never seemed likely when the three practised up at Stage 2000 in Dundee every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. They sounded brilliant. Always. Their traditional warm- up song was "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters, closely followed by Muse's "Plug-In Baby", a song perfected long ago by Connor and Rob. They had both almost broken their fingers, Connor because the riff was so complex, and Rob because of the speed the bass was required to travel at. Yet somehow they had managed to pull it off, and they would be able to test it on the public in Dundee's Reading Rooms pub on Friday night. It was Thursday now so an extra practice had been demanded, but the tension on the guitarist was evident. It had been a while since their last gig at the Battle of the Bands.

"You shouldn't worry about it, Con," Danny helpfully assured him, but his comment was almost - but not quite - as useless as a skunk with no odour up its rear end. While it was disastrous that a smelly stoat couldn't fart, the matter at hand in the atmospheric practice room was much more urgent.

Connor tutted at his drummer in an extremely arrogant manner. He rolled his big eyes and sticking out his bottom lip to prove that he was pouting due to the unhelpful comment. That, thought Rob to himself, observing his friend's sorry face, was evident. Just for the sheer fun of contradiction, Connor decided he should add something to Danny's friendly sentiment.

"I do worry about it," he emphasised, "I worry about it just as much as I worry about not ever releasing an album." He paused for effect. "Which I intend on doing, by the way."

The two other band members nodded glumly. Rob sauntered over to Sylvia, his bright pink bass guitar - named after his girlfriend - while Danny, already perched on his drum stool, held his two best sticks - affectionately named Bert and Ernie - above his head to signify his readiness. Pleased with the diligence, Connor picked up his Fender Telecaster he had called Frances - after Kurt Cobain's daughter - and strummed the first couple of chords to R.E.M.'s "Country Feedback".

Smiling with a lot of effort when you're in fact feeling very apprehensive can often be detected by other people and become quite concerning, but Connor was able to fake-smile and make others feel completely relaxed.

"Ready, Mockingbird?" he tested, poising the Gibson plectrum over the humming strings. With enthusiastic cries of affirmation from the other two, Connor broke out into "Everlong", the somewhat long introduction savoured by the three boys.

"Hello, I've waited here for you, Everlong." Connor sang, his voice a hybrid of the grimy tones belonging to Mr Cobain and the lesser-known Simon Neil, lead singer/guitarist for one of Mockingbird's favourite bands, the Kilmarnock-based Biffy Clyro. The "Weegie" trio had inspired Connor and Rob to write some of their best stuff.

After "Everlong", they covered a version of "Plug-In Baby", Placebo's "Nancy Boy", the infamous "God Save the Queen" and Nirvana's "Lithium" and "All Aplologies". They then played a couple of their own songs, the latest one being a very punk song with a catchy rhythm, but nothing like that Good Charlotte crap. Mockingbird were having so much fun that they didn't realise the time, and before they knew it they were being chucked out of Stage 2000, but not without completing Biffy Clyro's "All the Way Down".

Connor and Rob waved goodbye to Danny with cheerful spirits, the front man now much more convinced that their gig tomorrow would be a success. But there would never be a gig, as they were soon to discover as soon as Connor ran across the road, narrowly avoiding being slammed into by a passing taxi. Although he wasn't hit full-on, the wing mirror had whacked - with an unsatisfying sound - into Connor's left hand. His guitar fret hand.

Rob let out a cry at the funny angle his best friend's hand was performing. Connor stared numbly at it for a moment before dropping his guitar case and falling to his knees holding his left wrist in his right hand. He screamed curses at the rapidly swelling fingers.

"OH MY GOD!" Rob yelled, Darting across the road to join his friends on the ground, "Connor, are you okay?"

Rob's lifelong best friend stopped swearing and looked him in the eyes. The bassist was taken aback to see that Connor had tears in his eyes. For as long as he could remember, Rob had never seen Connor cry. Never.

"Connor," Rob croaked, slumping back onto the wet grass, looking out onto the River Tay and the bleak refuges of the mist-covered Newport on the opposite side. Connor shook his head at Rob as a car pulled up beside them. A man helped the guitarist into the Vauxhall Zafira to take him to hospital, but Rob stayed behind staring after them long after the car had disappeared.

Rob didn't see Connor for three days, until he finally walked into the grotty flat one day without warning or calling first. Rob tried to smile weakly at him, but there was nothing he could find to say.

"I can't play guitar anymore, Robbo," Connor attempted, his voice cracked and chipped like the paint on their celing.

"Your arm'll heal though, right?" Rob queried frantically, although he already knew the realistic and inevitable answer, "You'll - you'll be able to play again.Con."

Connor, the proud, vain front man of the potential Mockingbird, lowered his head and said nothing. There wasn't anything. Everyone knew that Connor's one dream was to be a rock star. Now that was taken away from him, no matter what Rob or his own family did, there was nothing left for him.

"You know," Connor randomly interjected one rainy day in February, two months later, "Kurt Cobain never took on a job in which he could hurt his hands to stop him playing. But then he shot himself, with the same hands. Funny, huh?"

Rob shrugged, not really finding it funny, but sad, "Yeah, I guess so," he fibbed. Silence.

"Rob?" Connor turned around to look at his friend, who glanced up at him with admirable loyalty, "You're not going to like what I'm going to ask of you."

Rob stared at him, egging him to go on. Connor took a deep breath, as if agonising over the situation. It was so unlike him. But Connor wasn't really himself anymore, he was just a smelly old bum who mooched off his parents and was only ever good at one thing. And he couldn't even do that anymore.

"Rob," Connor sighed, "I don't want you to play music anymore. I want you to throw Sylvia out. I want you to throw Frances out for me. I want you to tell Danny to throw away Bert and Ernie."

Rob blinked at Connor's selfishness, but only shrugged again. "Whatever," he replied speedily, grabbing his parka off the back of the kitchen chair, which fell to the ground with a thud.

He heard Connor sigh deeply behind him as if Rob had refused to, which he should, really. It had taken Rob ages to save up and buy Sylvia. But he adored Connor so much and knew he would throw both instruments out, and phone Danny ordering him to chuck away his prized birthday drumsticks. Rob would do it because he loved Connor, even if he would later leave him and never see him again until he was in a wooden box at thirty-three. Rob knew he would be okay and so would Danny, but Connor would slowly rot away into depression.

"Well done, Con," Rob exhaled to the wooden door separation him from his best friend that he hated just then, "you successfully killed the mockingbird."